Not much is going right for the Arizona Coyotes this season, with the club parked at a 2-13-2 in the basement of the league. They’ve still scored more goals than the Edmonton Oilers, which is hilarious, but there’s not a lot else to hold on to if you’re a fan of the desert dogs.
Except for maybe Clayton Keller, Chesterfield native and early rookie of the year candidate.
The 19-year-old has 17 points in 17 games, including 11 of Arizona’s 42 goals. For the record, Connor McDavid has six of Edmonton’s 32 goals.
Keller was drafted by the Coyotes in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and made his debut with the team in the 2016-2017 season, posting two assists in three games.
But now, it seems the man has arrived.
Keller holds the honour of being just the 16th player in league history to score 11 goals inside his first 20 NHL games. He leads all rookies in scoring now, with Vancouver’s Brock Boeser currently holding 14 points in a dozen games and Long Island’s Mathew Barzal also in the running with 14 points in 15 games.
Keller was part of the United States National Team Development Program in 2014 and put up top-tier numbers before heading to Boston College. He was the Hockey East Rookie of the Year in 2016-2017 after leading the team in scoring.
The Coyotes drafted him and signed him to an entry level deal by March of 2017, after Boston’s ouster from the NCAA tournament, and the rest is history. Keller is setting franchise numbers comparable to Teemu Selanne, which is providing Arizona with a necessary bright spot to hold on to in an otherwise dismal season.
And really, very little will drag the Coyotes out of the basement at this point. Not much else is going right for the squad, but Keller is at least one reason to hope for the future.
He’s scoring goals at a pace that puts him in the mix for all players, not just rookies. Keller is fourth overall in goals, just behind Nikita Kucherov, Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares and one goals ahead of Auston Matthews. That’s pretty elite company.
And sure, there are reasons for Keller to look over his shoulder. Not only is he playing on a bad team, but Charlie McAvoy could be in the Calder mix on account of his playing boatloads of hockey for the Bruins. Colorado’s Alexander Kerfoot could put in a good word, too, as could Adrian Kempe, Will Butcher, Nico Hischier, and the aforementioned Barzal and Boeser.
So yeah, things could get interesting before the season ends and Keller could lose what looks like a lock for the Calder Trophy. But right now, he’s giving the Coyotes a reason to hope.